Saturday, December 16, 2006

Maryland, My Democratic Maryland

There's a scene in the West Wing where a Republican lawyer explains why he clerked for a liberal Supreme Court Justice. Basically, he says that debating with the Justice helped to clarify his own views. Blair Lee does that for me. Every Saturday morning, after reading his column, I spend a good twenty minutes stomping around the house, outraged. Usually my wife gets to hear a diatribe about how utterly wrong Lee is. And afterwards I find that I'm better at articulating what I believe. But my wife's in Houston, so today, this diatribe's for you.
Lee argues in today's column that the Maryland Republican Party is not nearly as dead as everyone thinks. He points out that this year's election was nationalized, and the main reason people like Howie Denis, Jean Cryor, and Sandy Schrader lost was George W. Bush. This is true. But it doesn't, as Lee suggests, mean that an election in a more neutral political year will give the Republicans a chance to surge back. Among the casualties in this last election, people like Denis, Cryor, and Schrader, were most if not all of the Maryland Republican Party's moderate wing. For all the talk about the 'Oh my God, a Republican won!' victory of Bob Ehrlich in 2002, people forget that he is a moderate. As long as the Maryland Republican Party is run by conservative, Book of Revelations-thumping, get-rid-of-all-government firebrands, then the Demcoratic monopoly will never end.
Lee also turns to his fallback pro-Republican argument that we need a strong Republican party in the state because, in the words of our soon to be gone Governor of Talk Radio, "I believe competition in the marketplace of ideas is good for the state." I'm pinching myself as I say this to make sure I'm not hallucinating, but that's an idea I actually agree with. We do need debate, real debate. But the last four years of Bobby's reign haven't involved real debate. They've mostly involved the Governor tossing rhetorical bombs at the legislature through the media. And, in any case, it's way too simplistic to think that the only possibility for debate in a democratic society is between two parties.
The Maryland Democratic Party is about as ideologically diverse a party as you can get without it becoming a fistfight. There's a strong progressive wing, led by people like Bethesda's Senator Frosh. Rural democratic conservatives like Senator Middleton are still very powerful. Strong Democratic delegations come from almost every part of the state, from city to suburb to the farms of the Eastern Shore and southern Maryland. There will be a marketplace of ideas. But it will happen within one party rather than between two. And maybe, in the end, that's good for Maryland. After all, few people would rank the last four years as among the most productive in the history of state government. So maybe, with Republicans lacking any meaningful influence, and with Ehrlich as a cautionary tale for Democrats, we'll see some real work getting done.


Anonymous fightingdem said...

The other problem the more hard-line Republicans (MD or otherwise) is their loathing for actual governance. If your goal is the dismantling of government (i.e. FEMA) your choices for making the argument that you should be in government virtually disappears. This argument only works if people are disgusted with the government in power. They may rally the die-hard Democrat haters but for anyone else who wants government to actually do something, they have no case. All O'Malley had to do is not suck or get a large segment of the citizenry to hate him and the Republicans haven't got a chance.

12/16/2006 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger Mdman said...

I agree that we need a Republican party to help us sharpen the debate. I think that one thing Marylanders learned over the last four years is that we really don't like Republicans governing our state. That said, it's unfortunate that we don't have any Republican County Council members, but the Republicans have pretty much alienated the Republican moderates. These neocons have given conservatives a bad name. There can be intelligent, thoughtful conservatives, but they are an endangered species, as well.

12/17/2006 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger Rfustero said...

The Republicans should review their history to determine what kind of Republicans won in the past.

Over the last 40 years the Republicans have had Gilbert Gude, Newton Steers, Connie Morella, J. Glen Beall,James Gleason,Spiro Agnew(who was a liberal at one time)Bob Ehrlich, and others. These republicans were mostly moderate to liberal.

On the Democrat sise, whenever the Democrats have nominated either a far right wing candidate George Mahoney(for Governor) when Agnew won, or a progressive who is too far left(joseph Tydings) they don't stay in office too long or they do not win re-election.

The majority of Marylanders are moderate to liberal, and when given the choice, have usually voted for the moderate candidate.

12/18/2006 10:23:00 AM  

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